trumpet playing chief designer began her career designing backpacks and rucksacks for fell walkers and mountaineers, so this is a company that knows a thing or two about HiTec materials and keeping precious instruments out of harm’s way. Their Premium series bags are virtually bombproof. Made out of tough PVC-free water resistant rip-stop material, they come with lightweight solid moulded base panels to give even more extra protection. Within the easy access double zippered main compartment are not only the dividing protective sections for three trumpets - with an extra padded sleeve, but also a removable accessory panel that comes with pockets and pouches for mutes and mouthpieces that has been designed to be hung from a music stand.

Three tiered zippered pockets make up the right hand side of the bag, the lowest of which has two internal pockets, together with a carabineer key clasp. The middle pocket sports an internal triple mouthpiece pouch, while the top pocket houses the elasticated waterproof cover. The left hand side panel carries the well padded, heavy duty back harness, with two zippered phone pouches and separate pocketed hip wings that when not in use are stashed in a zippered compartment faced by an ‘airflow’ covered panel. Set above this is a tough nylon webbed grab handle.

To the top of the bag is a double velcroed adjustable grab handle and a useful slip concealed address label, while to either end of the top panel are heavy duty nylon clasps that can be attached to an adjustable webbed shoulder strap with floating shoulder pad. The rigid base of the bag is finished with four solid nylon feet. This Premium is a bag for all seasons, and we would happily take it on the road. But it is sadly too large for cabin luggage and because of the lack of ‘lockability’, we wouldn’t want to risk putting it in the hold.

– David Gallant

For more info go to www.fusion-bags.com


You can’t help but admire Jody Espina of Jody Jazz: his total commitment to developing and refining the design of the metal mouthpiece to achieve the ultimate in sound quality and projection borders on the fanatical. And judging by the roster of stellar players that now blow through the JJ mouthpiece, there’s no question that all those hours of soul searching and R&D have been worth the midnight oil.

We took delivery of a DV mouthpiece for our Selmer Alto and were immediately struck by the unusual packaging – this mouthpiece is presented in a velour pouch in a lightweight wooden cylindrical box/canister, with its string/button tie!

The mouthpiece itself is akin to a piece of select sculpture – the unit has quality written all over it. We reckon the sculptor Henry Moore would have been pleased with this beauty – and in 24kt gold plate too. In fact, the whole development of the unit has been built around the concept of Golden Section Proportions (interestingly a visual art term). Espina was looking to create the perfect chamber/bore/facing combination, which would result in the best possible playing experience.

Free blowing it certainly is. In fact it’s totally effortless. There’s a consistency of sound all through the register and the tone is much darker and more sweet and smooth than a standard metal mouthpiece (ie: our Brancher). To our ear, the JJ didn’t seem to have as much punch in the middle as our Brancher, but it more than makes up for this in the ‘sotto voce’ with a beautifully controlled sound – and there’s not a hint of the shrillness usually associated with metal. OK, it doesn’t come cheap. But then, neither do silk sheets! The mouthpiece comes with a Rico ‘H’ ligature and shaped cap.

For more info go to www.jodyjazz.com

Clip on ‘bell’ mics coupled with wireless systems are hardly a new concept, but to date they have all, bar a few very expensive exceptions, been of the analogue variety. There are two distinct drawbacks with this type of system. The use of a ‘compander’ (short for compressor/ expander) to effectively squash the signal before transmission so that it will fit into the VHF or UHF band and then expand it back again at the receiver to try and replicate the original sound really doesn’t cut the mustard. As we all know, once you’ve removed information to reduce the file size, you won’t get it back.

The other problem with analogue systems is the bandwidth. Rolling off the top and bottom ends means that that big fat bottom is not coming through and the sonic subtleties in the high-end harmonics are all but lost.

Enter the Stage Clix digital wireless system. This Dutch produced product has no need for a compander – it’s digital – so all the information is retained. And with a bandwidth of 20Hz to 20kHz, you’ve got CD quality sound.

The system comes in a lightweight, moulded, ABS hand case, which offers plenty of protection for the delicate components. The mini condenser clip-on microphone and its supporting system is exceptionally well built with a well padded, firmly sprung ‘clamp clip’ attached to a gooseneck, to allow accurate positioning for maximum response. There is also a mini shock-mount holder for element protection and the handling of noise rejection. Some players have apparently found that vibrations from the bell of their instrument have still been picked up by the mic, due to the rigidity of the support fan around the mic capsule. Although we didn’t have any such problems, this can, we are told, be alleviated by reducing the contact points between the cage and the capsule.

Overall, the mic responded as we had expected. Its exceptional build qualities were reflected in its sonic response. Attached to a sax bell, it managed to seemingly capture every nuance of sound clearly, cleanly and evenly across the full range.

There was no audible tainting or colouring. With a patented transmitting technique dubbed ‘triple-diversity’, which uses three frequencies within the one channel at the same time, there’s little chance of either dropout or interference. There are almost certainly going to be problems with the current analogue systems given the government’s future ‘switchover’ plans. But as the Stage Clix system uses a frequency of 2.4 GHz, which is both legal to use and available worldwide, there’s no need for an upgrade and no more applying for licences as per Channel 38.

For more info go to www.mtraudio.com

The Stage Works Mat is a simple non-slip pedal mat, which was originally designed for keyboard pedals with the input of pianist/ producer Andy Murray, who was looking for an alternative and more flexible way to stabilise his keyboard pedal, as ‘gaffa tape’ is not only very restrictive, but also very expensive.

Stage Works and Murray came up with a triple layer solution, that has the top layer absorbing the initial jolt, while the middle layer cushions the impact, with the base layer giving maximum grip. The resulting ‘triple layer technology’ mats not only fit under the keyboard, bass drum or high hat pedal but also act as a foot rest and are lightweight, flexible and small enough to be packed into a keyboard bag or a cymbal case.

The marketing blurb tells us that they are designed to work on ‘the most challenging surfaces’ – so we took that literally. We tested the twin pack on a laminate floor under a Tama Cobra hi-hat stand and a Tama Cobra bass drum pedal linked to a Yamaha electronic kit kick drum. Smooth laminate flooring has always proved to be one of the toughest of challenges, particularly with a bass drum pedal attached to a lightweight kick pad. However, with the Stage Gear mats in place, the whole setup remains stable. There’s no movement whatsoever – it does what it says on the tin.

Not only do these Stage Works mats make a good alternative to the old drum rug, but we also reckon that they would also be ideal for use in the studio allowing a kit to ‘speak’, as a drum rug invariably deadens and muffles any ambient sound. At under £12 a pair, they are every drummer, guitarist and keyboard player’s essential accessory.

For more go to www.stageworksgear.com

LaBella have been somewhat eclipsed by D’Addario in recent years, and in many ways for good reason. D’Addario have expanded and promoted their extensive range through a roster of top endorsees who all cite tuning stability and longevity as the main reasons behind their choice. Pretty convincing if you’re just a work-a-day player on the circuit. Of course, none of us would deny that invariably we’ll string up our axes with D’Addarios, but I recently decided that I was going to look outside the box (that is full of D’Addarios – particularly flat wound 12s!) and try something that would give me more edge to my sound, more bite and more character.

Having played LaBellas in the past, I checked out the strings that were new to their range and that I thought might give me the sound and feel that I was looking for and came up with the Super Alloy 52 (11-52). These strings have a high iron content (48 per cent) – which means more signal power to your pickup, while the other 52 per cent is Nickel, to prevent tarnishing.

Being a ‘thumb’ player, smooth strings and tension are all important and the 52s are, for round wounds, as smooth and as slick as they come and there’s just enough flex and feel off the string to get a great response. OK, you might be thinking that these 52s sound like a perfect fit for a Strat, but strung up on my ‘semi’, they delivered just that sort of clear, clean sound with a rich, round full tone together with the edge and bite that we were looking for.

I’ve had them on for a month now and there’re no pitch problems. In fact, they’re still as sweet as the day I put them on. Needless to say, I’ve since added a few more sets of the SA52s to our string box.

 For more info go to www.sf-music.co.uk

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